I believe that the greatest threat to the legal profession is the incursion by the Big Four accounting firms. The writing is indelibly on the wall. And yet most American law firms are complacent. They believe that U.S. regulations make them untouchable.

Not so fast.

An article published yesterday by The American Lawyer reports that “The British arm of Deloitte is announcing a ‘first of its kind’ alliance with U.S. immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden, as the Big Four accounting firms continue their push into legal services.”

Read the article carefully, and I think you’ll see how maneuvering around the rules can be effected with elegance and sophistication. This statement may be of particular interest:

In addition to the alliance, which gives BAL access to Deloitte’s scale and expertise outside of the U.S., Deloitte UK will acquire the law firm’s non-U.S. business, which extends across eight different countries.

And this:

Much of the [preparatory] work involved ensuring that the alliance did not run afoul of bar rules prohibiting Deloitte’s American entity from providing legal services [italics mine]. Deloitte U.S. is party neither to the alliance nor the acquisition of the overseas offices.

“Our primary responsibility was to make sure that the strategic alliance met those requirements,” [Deloitte partner and global immigration specialist Kalvinder] Dhillon said.

Good luck trying to sanction the law firm involved. There are many precedents in the U.S. that see the courts putting the interests of the clients before the interests of law firms, and this looks like another situation where this is something clients wanted… and only coincidentally of great benefit to Deloitte’s hawkish approach to the business of law.

Stay tuned…. This just gets more interesting every day.

Let me know your thoughts about this issue, and about any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.